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What to Focus on Instead of Weight Loss

Did you know the vast majority of those who intentionally lose weight gain it all back? And many gain back more weight than they lost. In fact, dieting is associated with weight gain over time. And that’s not all, there are serious side effects associated with weight loss attempts.

So if you’re not following food rules and you’re not focusing on your weight… what in the world do you focus on?

First let’s begin with why we want to let go of restriction and weight loss behaviors:

Dangers of Weight Cycling

Weight cycling is when weight goes up and down, repeatedly. Which is what happens when we try to control our weight. Our bodies don’t like this. Our metabolisms react defensively and try to protect the body from further weight loss (evolutionarily, this makes sense).

Outcomes of weight cycling:
-Decreased bone mass (increased risk for osteoporosis)
-Increased inflammation (increased risk for many chronic diseases)
-Increased mortality risk (greater chance of dying)

Weight Loss Doesn’t Equal Health Gain

Research on weight neutral approaches, including Health At Every Size (HAES) and intuitive eating, find participants experience improvements in health without focusing on weight. These paradigms focus on body acceptance and reliance on internal hunger and satiety cues.

Findings of HAES and intuitive eating research:
-Greater body acceptance
-Improved self-care behaviors
-Weight maintenance (no weight gain)
-Improved, or at least maintained dietary quality (i.e. their nutrition didn’t plummet)

Instead of focusing on weight loss, focus on self-care, mindfulness and body acceptance.

What to Focus on Instead of Weight

It’s no secret that our culture idealizes thinness and it makes total sense that people have a drive for it. But what’s really at the root of a desire for weight loss? Usually it’s the desire to feel happy and healthy, which is completely understandable. So now that you know weight loss is not a one-way ticket to happiness and health, what can you do to move closer to those goals?

  • Self-care
      • Make a list of what helps you unwind, feel energized or get centered. Work these things into your daily and weekly routines.
      • Self-care doesn’t have to be bubble baths and massages — it’s whatever helps you feel good physically, emotionally and mentally.
    • Consider adding more sleep and time in nature and less time on screens and social media.
  • Mindfulness
      • Make a point to pay more attention to the present moment. When we’re stressed out, it often is because we’re worried about something that happened in the past, or something we think is going to happen in the future.
      • When the desire to diet or lose weight comes up, dig deeper and ask yourself what’s really behind that desire.
    • What can you do today to help yourself feel better? And what does “better” mean? Is it more energized, happier in your relationships, more fulfilled in your career?
  • Body Trust
      • Your body comes with complex and sophisticated mechanisms to help you thrive.
      • Practice intuitive eating. This involves letting go of foods rules and restrictions and tuning into your body’s internal hunger and fullness cues.
    • Rather than trying to control your body, work on listening to your body. Do you need to slow down? Do you need to move more? Do you need to drink more water? Do you need to eat more veggies?
  • Body Acceptance
      • If you feel like there is no way you could love your body today, that’s OK. Try neutral observation first.
    • Buy clothes that fit your current body that you feel comfortable in. Hit your local thrift store or search online for body-positive, ethical and inclusive clothing companies.

Further reading:

Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift
Understanding Weight Neutrality
Why All Vegans Should Be Weight Inclusive

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